Ties between US and China could further spiral out of control as US President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation calling for sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for oppressing Uighur Muslims, according to media reports quoting key sources.
The Uighur Human Rights Act (UHRA) was passed unanimously by a 413-1 vote in late May. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, Washington has gone on an all-out offensive against Beijing for its mishandling of the virus.
The UHRA calls for sanctions against those responsible for the repression of Uighurs and other Muslim groups in China’s Xinjiang province, where the United Nations estimates more than a million Muslims have been detained in camps.
The legislation, proposed by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, singles out Xinjiang’s Communist Party secretary, Chen Quanguo, a member of China’s powerful Politburo, as responsible for “gross human rights violations” against Uighurs.
According to Al Jazeera, the Chinese embassy in Washington repeated a prior statement, noting that the bill “blatantly smears China’s counterterrorism and deradicalisation measures and seriously interferes in China’s internal affairs,” which China “deplores and firmly opposes”.
“We urge the US to immediately rectify its mistake, stop using Xinjiang-related issues to intervene in China’s internal affairs and refrain from going even further down the wrong path,” the embassy added.
According to Human Rights Watch, Uighur Muslims from China’s Xinjiang region have faced mass incarceration by the Chinese government. Estimates suggest 1-2 million Uighurs have been interned at incarceration camps while millions of others have been tortured, arrested or thrown in jail.
So far, China has brushed off all allegations against them and claims it has released more than a million Uighurs Muslims. China has denied all allegations of torture or mistreatment of people levied against it.
The government maintains that the camps provide vocational training. Beijing has also denied any independent investigations of the camps.
The US had earlier announced its displeasure over China’s handling of the pandemic as well the provocative moves it has made in the South China Sea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Washington is currently looking to impose sanctions on individuals seen as responsible for “smothering – absolutely smothering – Hong Kong’s freedom.”